Category Archives: Caribbean Plus Lit News

Literary news of interest from the Caribbean and wider world

Finding Readers, Finding Books

l share cropped
(a book lover’s social media share)

An interesting social media post recently asked book lovers how they found new books, new authors – a question always of interest to authors like me always trying to land our promotion and marketing efforts where it can have the most impact.

another l share cropped
(Another book lover’s social media share)

Here are some of the other responses:

-friends’ recommendations (on social media… and, I would add, other places since more often than not these last few years of trying not to acquire new books until I can lighten my books-unread shelf, ‘new’ books have been thrust upon me by well meaning friends; and I can’t complain. As for how this affects my own promotional efforts, reader reviews are encouraged and used like those movie tag lines. They have proven especially useful being from a small place with my books receiving scant critical attention comparatively speaking, and, though that’s gotten better, I still welcome readers helping me create buzz by recc’ing a book of mine to readers in their network)

bookempt.gyal4(Yet another book lover’s social media share. credit: bookempt.gyal on instagram)

-reading  the book cover blurb and the first pages (online retail sites have made this easier, useful to me both as a reader and as a researcher building and sharing knowledge here on the site and in other places, but I remember I used to – and still – do this when shopping for or considering physical books. I even know people who, while browsing,  read the end and the middle to get a feel for the book – something the online retail sites have also made easier. I don’t get that part because, hello, spoilers. But I do try to accommodate readers’ need to know how it starts by publishing first pages on my Jhohadli blog)

-book related groups + review requests (this is the interaction part of social media, participating not just plugging, recommending other writers, not just pushing your own product; it’s time consuming but part of building community)

-freebies (as a writer and reviewer, with a blogger on books series, I get a number of requests to read books; and promotional giveaways have only gotten more plentiful in this age of internets.  It’s a bit more challenging to take on these reading assignments for the blog due to that time not being covered, plus it can be stressful, especially as I’ve been on the other side of this freebies for reviews relationship and know how it can feel when the person who copped the freebie doesn’t say word one about your book)

-recommendations on (person mentioned a specific literary platform but really all of them – not to mention #bookstagram #booktube the book blogging community and its many memes, and the myriad goodreads lists not to mention groups on facebook and specialized lists on twitter etc; it’s a lot to keep up with but I try to be in those spaces and try to connect my books with people in those spaces…of course, you have to give to get and that means making recommendations of your own)

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(Yet yet another book lover’s social media share. credit: baby making machine blog)

-Always ask my daughter (lol) – I like this one but this speaks to your real life reading partners and book clubs and the like, the book store employee who recs books he thinks you’ll like based on your reading history …those personal connections… book clubs and bookstores are among my mailing lists but beyond the lists are the relationships. Remember when you were in school and no two of you had a single penny to knock together but someone might have a book and that booked got passed around like mix tapes? How about that relationship with that friend you really see except for when it’s time for another book exchange every time a favourite author drops a new book? book conversations? book groups where there’s as much wine and idle chatter as book deep dives? you know what I mean) … it’s a beautiful thing.

oh gad in walmart posted by hadassa 2012
(book lover’s social media share)

How about you, where do you find your books?… authors, where do you find your readers?

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.


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New Book – It’s Madness, Plus

(21/01/19 – ETA: Also new, Peepal Tree Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories, “The collection includes the work of, amongst others, Opal Palmer Adisa, Christine Barrow, Rhoda Bharath, Jacqueline Bishop, Hazel Campbell, Merle Collins, Jacqueline Crooks, Kwame Dawes, Curdella Forbes, Ifeona Fulani, Kevin Jared Hosein, Keith Jardim, Barbara Jenkins, Meiling Jin, Cherie Jones, Helen Klonaris, Sharon Leach, Alecia McKenzie, Sharon Millar, Breanne Mc Ivor, Anton Nimblett, Geoffrey Philp, Velma Pollard, Jennifer Rahim, Raymond Ramcharitar, Jacob Ross, Leone Ross, Olive Senior, Jan Shinebourne and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw.” Read more.

I’ve been meaning to share announcement re this Caribbean collection focused on madness in the writing of Caribbean wordsmiths.


From an Antiguan-Barbudan standpoint, writings referenced include Freida Cassin’s With Silent Tread and Jamaica Kincaid’s writing in general, it seems, in, for one, a chapter entitled ‘Fighting Mad to Tell Her Story’: Madness, Rage, and Literary Self-Making in Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid. The latter, if I’m reading the preview correctly, argues that “Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid make(s) purposive use of ‘raving’ and ‘raging’ women in projects of literary self-making that are finely attuned to the geopolitical and cultural legacies of colonialism.”

More broadly, the book, Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature: On the Edge, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018, edited by Bénédicte Ledent, Evelyn O’Callaghan, and Daria Tunca, “takes an original view of madness as a potential space of political, cultural and artistic resistance, (and) looks at a wide range of Caribbean texts, including recent work”.

I’m interested in this, having touched on mental health issues (born of societal pressures in an uneven world) in my novel Oh Gad! and women dealing with the external and internal messiness of being in a lot of my writing – with the possible exception of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (lol). And I agree that it (madness) has been under-discussed not just in criticism but in our Caribbean reality – plus I’m just interested in feminine emotions and how they are sometimes mis-categorized as irrationality and/or madness, and how on the page female characters are, problematically, expected to be likeable (or else) – and things of that sort.  So, I’ll likely check it out at some point; and you can too.

“This collection takes as its starting point the ubiquitous representation of various forms of mental illness, breakdown and psychopathology in Caribbean writing, and the fact that this topic has been relatively neglected in criticism, especially in Anglophone texts, apart from the scholarship devoted to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). The contributions to this volume demonstrate that much remains to be done in rethinking the trope of “madness” across Caribbean literature by local and diaspora writers. This book asks how focusing on literary manifestations of apparent mental aberration can extend our understanding of Caribbean narrative and culture, and can help us to interrogate the norms that have been used to categorize art from the region, as well as the boundaries between notions of rationality, transcendence and insanity across cultures.”

Chapters listed are “Kingston Full of Them”: Madwomen at the Crossroads by Kelly Baker Josephs, “Fighting Mad to Tell Her Story”: Madness, Rage, and Literary Self-Making in Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid by Denise deCaires Narain, Madness and Silence in Caryl Phillips’s A Distant Shore and In the Falling Snow by Ping Su, Speaking of Madness in the First Person/Speaking Madness in the Second Person? Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” by Delphine Munos, What Is “Worse Besides”? An Ecocritical Reading of Madness in Caribbean Literature by Carine M. Mardorossian, Performing Delusional Evil: Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother by Rebecca Romdhani, Horizons of Desire in Caribbean Queer Speculative Fiction: Marlon James’s John Crow’s Devil by Michael A. Bucknor, When Seeing Is Believing: Enduring Injustice in Merle Collins’s The Colour of Forgetting by Alison Donnell, Migrant Madness or Poetics of Spirit? Teaching Fiction by Erna Brodber and Kei Miller by Evelyn O’Callaghan, and (Re)Locating Madness and Prophesy: An Interview with Kei Miller by Rebecca Romdhani. (Palgrave)

Should be an interesting read.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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Great News for Writers out of Barbados

… when is there not, right? I know, I know, the Barbadian artistic community has its complaints but I have to say from the outside looking in they seem to have their act together in terms of valuing artists and creating avenues of opportunities for writers that we don’t…but, yes, I know the grass is always greener.

Well, here’s some premium grass.

“The literary arts in Barbados is now on a firmer footing thanks to a Bds$1,000,000 donation dedicated to writers and their development.

Central Bank of Barbados Governor, Cleviston Haynes over the weekend announced the gift, that equates to US$500,000, that will be used as an investment trust fund to supplement work of the island’s premier scheme for annual writing competition and writer’s development, the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment, (FCLE) which will receive all dividends.

This sizeable enticement for Barbadians to further let loose their creative imaginations should be a welcome contribution for authors because a common cry among artistes on the island, in other developing and in Third World countries, is that the absence of material rewards for their work reflects scant respect for such productions…”

So, yeah, kudos to Barbados (home of the BIM literary journal, the BIM literary festival and book fair, one of the region’s few writer in residence programmes, a lit arts endowment programme, a lit arts prize and publications related to same, an artist residency programme that pulls in artists from all over, lit arts programmes in the schools and country at large on an ongoing basis, a lit activity (read-in) during their Carnival, Crop Over…am I overselling it?… maybe, I know from conversations with artists there that they have their share of frustrations and struggles, but…every time fresh news from BIM lands in my inbox, it’s hard not to be envious (as I am with St. Lucia’s record of recording its culture and arts history).

Anyway, read more on this new initiative here.

As with all content (words, images, other) on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Reading Room and Gallery 32

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 32nd  one which means there are 31 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.JCH


“This article is all about the trends I have observed in the publishing industry – in terms of manuscript publishers, self-publishing, and literary journals – over the last year or so. The key word in the previous sentence is “I”. This article reflects my personal opinion, and what I have noticed. I write a new/updated version of this article every year.” – Emily Harstone


“I think it’s a general misunderstanding, not just his. It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.

As the student had put it, I don’t want anyone like that in my house.

I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.” – Brian Morton


‘Girls do not climb coconut trees,’ he said, tossing the belt over his shoulder. ‘It spoils the nuts.’ – Matalasi by Jenny Bennett-Tuionetoa


“More than 20,000 submissions came in representing all genres of travel photography, from street scenes to wildlife. AFAR’s highly respected panel of photography judges selected the winners, whose work we’re proud to present here.” More here.


“and every deployment
is a Talking Heads song
and every morning
is an invitation to dance
in a pill bottle
and you’re not interested
in keeping busy
and you don’t want
more group texts
and you don’t want
your daughter learning
to shoot a rifle
with the other kids
who aim at a silhouette
of someone’s son
tied to a haystack” – Asking for a Friend by Abby E. Murray


“In a sense, the poem is again about gratitude. There is no regret or there is no even wishing it had not happened. It’s just a realization that we lost ten years of making frittatas together. As a mother and a daughter who loved each other and who love each other, that’s a lot.” – Alice Walker


“I write for an ideal reader — an actual person who is now dead, but who still sits on my shoulder asking certain questions about authenticity and truth. This ideal reader was a renowned, respected and important author and critic, and he became my friend. I write for him because he represents for me the best in literature, in thinking, in humanity and because I always want to write something that he would like to read.” – Tessa McWatt


“How you wear the environment is the key to auditioning” – Mahershala Ali


‘Atticus is the quintessential emblem of the “good white Southerner,” of “moral white America.” What I hope that my book will do—by providing the historical context for understanding what Lee was battling with and what she was trying to do with the character of Atticus—is help us be more well-informed about the political struggles that shaped not only her, but also the South and the nation more broadly. Whatever you may think of To Kill a Mockingbird as a piece of fiction, I think that understanding Atticus and critically engaging with how we’ve long been taught certain romanticized notions of racial morality are important for all of us.’ – Joseph Crespino


Q. What if you were in a room with aspiring writers? What advice would give to them?

Francie Latour: Read read read read. The best way to become a better writer is to read, and to study the architecture of every good piece of writing you come across.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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Welcome to 2019

We made it, y’all. We each hit different speeds and temperatures this year and because our online lives are so curated we can think it’s all smooth sailing and temperate climates with every body but us. Not so. Don’t let any of us fool you. We live, that’s all, through the Antigua-sized potholes and the rough weather, we live and though flipping the calendar from 2018 to 2019 isn’t some magic door to everything-better, it is, if nothing else, an indicator that we’re still here. Another day, another opportunity to be, to dream, to work, to hope, to laugh, to cry, to do, to journey…imperfect as this journey is. Okay? And as someone once close to me used to say often, ” be good to you”.


In spite of the challenges – and they were many – 2018 was good to me in a few ways. One of those ways was the release of the Spanish language edition of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. I was about to say that it’s my first foreign language translation but technically it’s not even my first Spanish language translation – my poem She Works (which won a prize and then didn’t did manage to get translated before things fizzled). Which was cool to see. But this is the first book translation…except maybe not something something a university student in Italy, The Boy from Willow Bend. But it is the first commercial book translation. And it’s Caribbean Reads, one of the newer (if not the newest), smaller independent presses I’ve had the opportunity to work with that did it.

They share that and other developments re books by all their authors in their year end round up. Two other developments specific to this #gyalfromOttosAntigua are the addition of my other Caribbean Reads book, Musical Youth, a Burt award winning title, to the secondary schools reading list in Antigua and Barbuda (it had also previously been added to a schools reading list in Trinidad); also my participation in the Miami Book Fair.

Real talk while these developments were developing, other parts of my life weren’t going so well (so even as a part of me was promoting these developments, the inner me was struggling to stay upbeat). But it’s nice to look back and realize yeah, I did that. The literary achievements, yes, I am beyond thankful, but also survived 2018. Here to live another day.

And guess what, you did to. Celebrate yourself.

Okay, if you want to  read the entire Caribbean Reads round up, go here.

And again Happy New Year, let’s make it great.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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Peepal Tree Eulogizes Recently Deceased Jamaican Writer Hazel Campbell

JamaicaOnMyMindcoverimagehazel campbell

Back in 1991, when Peepal Tree was only six years old, I published Hazel’s collection Singerman, which I have always thought was one of the very best collections of short stories we have ever done. It is a matter of regret that at that stage in Peepal Tree’s life it was not possible to do much more than publish the book. I was not able to provide the kind of promotion the book deserved. I was still working as a lecturer in FE, there was as yet no Hannah Bannister handling marketing, no website, no social media, and reviews only came from sources that were specifically friendly to what we were doing. The reviews were very enthusiastic but appeared only in places such as small specialist postcolonial journals and The Morning Star, and were not sufficient to give Hazel the kind of attention outside Jamaica that she had within her country.

A couple of months ago, we noted we were down to the last handfuls of copies of the original print run of Singerman. I had no doubts that this was a title we should republish, even though it did not exist in any electronic format (another consequence of publishing in 1991) and the book had to be scanned and OCR’d to restore it to publishability. I had been disappointed that the new collection of stories Hazel had once told me (in an email) that she was working on had never materialised. She was concentrating on the essential business of writing books for children.

I had read many years ago the two collections of stories published by Kamau Brathwaite’s Savacou Co-operative, The Rag Doll and Other Stories (1978) and Woman’s Tongue (1985) – which was why I’d been so excited when the manuscript of Singerman arrived through the post. I found my copies of these books and began rereading with some trepidation – were they as good as I remembered? By this stage the idea of putting together a collected edition of all Hazel’s short stories was forming in my mind. The stories from those Savacou collections were good – with one exception. I emailed Hazel to ask whether there were stories written after Singerman and what she thought of the idea of a book of collected stories. There were new stories, though not enough for a book to themselves, and Hazel was clearly delighted with the proposal, though she mentioned that she wasn’t in such good health. She sent the eight new stories – all good ones – that very nicely brought the collection into the twenty-first century. I was particularly drawn to those that dealt with some of the issues of ageing in contemporary Jamaica in a disturbingly comic way. I mentioned to her that I thought one of the earliest stories might be left out, and Hazel wholeheartedly agreed – it was too sentimental – which it was, in a quite uncharacteristic way.

It was when I mentioned to Jacqueline Bishop, currently in London pursuing further studies, that I was working on this book that I learnt that Hazel’s not such good health was, at 78, much more serious than I’d supposed. I knew Jacqueline had interviewed Hazel for the Jamaica Observer in the excellent series of interviews she conducted (which will be published by Peepal Tree later next year) and I asked her if she’d like to write an introduction to the collection. She did. And at this point the project took on a sense of urgency. We had already experienced deaths that changed the nature of the publishing process. It saddens us still that Abdur-Rahman Slade Hopkinson never saw his collected poems, Snowscape with Signature, and that Archie Markham died unexpectedly in Paris when we were expecting him back to launch his memoir, Against the Grain, which again he’d never seen in print. We didn’t want this to happen with Hazel.

But the stories are there, collected together in a fat 345-page volume, called Jamaica On My Mind (a title Hazel came up with only a week or so ago), written between the early 1970s and within the last few years. Hazel was also very much involved in the choice of images for the cover. It perhaps gives some indication of her state of mind that a couple of ideas were turned down because, to her, they looked “too anguished”.

Read on.

We here at Wadadli Pen wish that Hazel was still among the living, are glad that she left her words to enchant us (to borrow a descriptor from Peepal Tree’s Jeremy Poynting) in death, and pray that her soul rests in peace…as we do the souls of others who have fallen from the Caribbean literary community in 2018:

Trinidad and Tobago born and reared Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul

Exif JPEGAntiguan and Barbudan playwright, actor, and award winning mas designer and builder Rick James

Jamaican contemporary author Garfield Ellis

St. Lucian literary icons Garth St. Omer & Gandolph St. Clair

Trinidad calypsonians and calypso writers The Mighty Shadow & the Original De Fosto Himself

Antigua and Barbuda’s King Smarty Sr. – father to 3 times crowned calypso monarch Smarty Jr. and a journeyman calypsonian in his own right

Rest in Power to them all.




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Top Posts of 2018 + Happy New Year

Happy 2019 from Wadadli Pen.

(some of the images from the blog in 2018…not all of which are connected to posts that made the top 10)

Come take one last look back at 2018 with us.

There you’ll find (in reverse order from the top 10 at my author blog Jhohadli, least to most viewed):

Kyle Christian Wins Wadadli Pen – the press release announcing the winner of the 2018 Wadadli Pen prize as distributed to the media.

Commonwealth-Caribbean Writers – my report on the writers’ workshop that was the highlight of my summer.

Who Won What in 2018? – the Who Won What at the end of the Wadadli Pen Challenge season is a regular in the top 10 because there’s always a high level of interest in the outcome.

Shout out to Caribbean Actors in Black Panther – Ask me how thrilled I am to see my favourite film of the year in the top 10. Also, well, duh… Also, Caribbean, represent!

Barbados, Guyana, and Bermuda Finalists for 2018 Burt Award – speaking of Caribbean, represent, these are all books by Caribbean writers for Caribbean teens and young adults which have won a major Caribbean award.

Literary Arts in Antigua and Barbuda – a Reflection – This post is about what some of our literary artists (not just me) have been doing in our space and time.

Damarae by Rosie Pickering (Wadadli Pen Honourable Mention, 2018) – This was an honourable mention in the estimation of the judge of the Wadadli Pen Challenge, and a win for the readers, clearly, as one of the most viewed and most shared posts of the year.

“I am not afraid.
The Zemis and my father will protect us” – excerpt

Creak by Kyle Christian (Wadadli Pen Winning Story, 2018) – the winning story in the 2018 Wadadli Pen Challenge and a favourite of visitors to the site as well:  “Excellent!”; “Brilliant, bold and witty, delivered with passion; drawing attention to (a) hidden history”.

“She had never been on the base and wondered what it looked like. It would have meant that she didn’t have to suffer the indignity of the rackety bed.” – excerpt

#2The Horizon
Art ‘Revelations’ (Antigua-Barbuda) – This art show, located at the Antigua Girls High School, featured the work of a handful of local art teachers. The success of this post is also, to my mind, an indicator of interest in this type of content, and is one of the drivers behind launching/reviving the CREATIVE SPACE series on my author/writer services blog.

#ReadAntiguaBarbuda #VoteAntiguaBarbuda – The second attempt at a readers’ choice award for Antiguan and Barbudan books after last year’s effort tanked. It’s doing better than last year but that’s not saying much. It’s literally an example of so many looks, so many looks, so few votes. Voting is open until the end of March 2019 though so maybe people are … reading?

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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